Six tips for safer online shopping

Holly Thomas / 14 April 2016

Stay safe when shopping online and protect your money from criminals and fraudsters with our six steps to buying and paying securely.



As the seasons change, sales of winter stock can mean some serious discounts. Thanks to the mild weather, we can expect great bargains on winter clothes and shoes that retailers simply haven’t been able to shift.

If you don’t fancy trawling through the shops, shopping on your computer from the comfort of favourite armchair will sound more than appealing.

When trying to bag a bargain online, your guard may be down when it comes to scams.

Here’s how to shop safely online in six steps:

1. Get your computer in shape

Websites which are unsafe make online shoppers more vulnerable to online fraud. However, there are a variety of ways that you can protect your computer from viruses. Start by installing quality anti-virus software. 

You should also protect your wireless network by using an encryption or password to stop other people using your wireless connection. 

It is important to make sure your computer is up-to-date and you are using the latest version of your web browser as this will make it harder for internet thieves to get into your computer in the first place.

Three free antivirus software programs.

2. Stick with known and trusted retailers

If you are tempted by an item on an unknown website, check that the site address begins “https”, rather than “http”, and that a small padlock appears in the address bar. These both signify that it is secure and safe to use.

Find out where the company is based and consider how easy it would be to return unwanted goods and communicate with customer service staff. Buying from foreign websites is risky because once you hand over the payment, you could struggle to get a refund if goods are faulty or fail to arrive.

Could a thief raid your bank account by just walking past you?

3. Beware of super duper discounts

Be suspicious of offers that seem too good to be true as it may indicate that a website is selling illegal or fake goods, or simply has no intention of delivering them. 

A Louis Vuitton handbag on sale for £100 is unlikely to be the real McCoy.

4. Check the website exists

You should ensure that the company trading online has a full postal address and not just a PO Box. The company should also provide a phone number. 

You can verify a seller’s name and address using directory inquiries at 192.com. It is also worth checking where companies are based. Some sites might appear to have UK domain names but are actually registered abroad. You can check where a domain name is registered either at nominet.org.uk/other/whois or who.is.

How to check if a company is genuine.

5. Pay safely

You can check a secure connection on the page where you type in your payment details by looking at the browser address, it should have “https” and not just “http”. You can also look for a padlock or an unbroken key symbol. 

If you pay by credit card, you have additional protection if something goes wrong. Your card company is liable for any misrepresentations or breaches of contract, if you paid between £100 and £30,000. Also, do not pay for items, such as tickets, direct from your bank account in return for a discount on the price. This can indicate that the seller is a fraudster.

Find out more about the protection paying by credit card can offer.

6. Beware of growing delivery scams

Some companies will use courier firms to deliver your orders. It can be tricky coordinating times sometimes but they often give you options such as leaving it with a neighbour or in a “safe place”. If your parcel is worth a lot of money it might be better not to agree for it to be left anywhere because it could be difficult to prove if it goes missing that it wasn’t stolen.

For more tips and useful information, browse our money articles.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.